Traditionally, before Tet, Vietnamese people usually plant a bamboo tree in front of their house. Bows, arrows, bells and gongs are hung on the treetop with the hope that all the bad luck of the past year will be chased away, and everyone will have a happy New Year. The tree is called Cay Neu.
Once upon a time, the devil ruled the earth. Everybody worked days and nights for him but had almost nothing to eat because the devil seized everything, thanks to the rule "the root of the rice plant belongs to the farmers, and the rest belongs to the devil."
The suffering of the people came to the Buddha's notice. He descended to earth and told them to grow sweet potatoes for the next crop. Following Buddha's advice, the farmers grew sweet potatoes and took the potato root; the devil got nothing.
Knowing that he had been fooled, the devil gave a new order: "From the next crop onward, both roots and grown plants will belong to the devil and the rest to the farmers." In the next crop, people grew corn and took all the cobs. Again the devil was outsmarted. Therefore, he made up his mind to take all of the land back.
Because of the people's misfortune, the Buddha appeared again and told people to ask the devil to rent his land for gold, just a small plot of land enough for a single bamboo’s shadow. Stunned with the gold and believing that they would certainly be defeated, the devil agreed with the plan at once.
The Buddha used his magic to make the tree taller and taller and the shadow bigger and bigger. At last, there was no more land for the devil driven out to sea. Since then the people have been free to plant any kinds of crop they want.
Being deprived of his land, the devil wanted to retrieve his former land. With the support of wild and ferocious beasts, he let his subjects go to the village to plunder and loot the crops. At the same time, the Buddha appeared and advised them to make bows and arrows to kill them and make use of dog blood mixed with garlic and lime to splash on their faces. Thus, the devil was defeated and put back out to sea. However, he also asked the Buddha to allow him to pay a visit to his ancestors' graves every year.
This is the reason why every year when Tet comes, Vietnamese people plant a Neu tree in front of their house to ward off the devil. The sounds of small bells and gongs on Cay Neu remind us of man's right to own the land, and the bows and arrows tell us that they were once the weapons used to fight against the devil.